Don’t be fooled – Russia Today is trash

By Oliver Hotham

Take a venture into the sometimes enlightening, often depressing, world of online activism and journalism and it’s likely you’ll see clips from a news organisation called Russia Today. This organisation paints a grim picture of the United States – in the world of Russia Today, the USA is an oligarchical tyranny, where the establishment conspires to silence brave truth-telling crusaders.

You’ll see cynical and almost always conspiratorial reports of groups the “the Bilderberg group”, who seek, ostensibly, world domination. Take a gander through the various videos the organisation has published on Youtube and you’ll see a bizarre combination of Syrian regime apologism, anti-American hysteria, and embarrassing populist pandering, not to mention the 9/11 conspiracy theory peddlers who frequent its airwaves.

To an outside observer stumbling upon Russia Today, you would be forgiven for thinking that the organisation is a brave one, shining a glimmer of light into the murky depths of Western hypocrisy. Wikileaks editor Julian Assange even presents a show on the news station – kudos to them for giving him a platform.

But Russia Today has an agenda, an agenda easy to work out from five minutes of basic research online. The network is owned by RIA Novosti, the Russian news agency 100% owned by the Russian government. Initially founded during the Second World War as the Soviet Information Bureau, RIA Novosti has transformed into an international, glitzy news agency, and Russia Today is their baby. Lets be clear about this – this is a news station owned (and undoubtedly influenced) by a government that has murdered journalists and political opponents, acts in a framework of institutionalised corruption, rigged elections, and committed war crimes against the Chechen people. This government is no friend of freedom and democracy, yet you would think that it is – from the trendy, glitzy, and anti-establishment Russia Today.

Former KGB officer Konstantin Preobrazhensky described the channel as “a part of the Russian industry of misinformation and manipulation” with an objective to create a smokescreen around Russian interests. In my view, the objective of Russia Today is simple propaganda – to perpetuate the idea among young and naive westerners that the crimes of their governments are just as bad as those of the Russia government. ‘What hypocrites our governments are!’ They want us to say, ‘The United Kingdom and the United States are just as bad, if not worse, than other countries!’ The idea is that if you consider the United States to have as bad a government as Russia, believe that your government might have blown up the twin towers, or cynically conspires with shady central bankers to steal oil in the Middle East, you enter a bizarre zone of moral and political relativism.

The Russian government’s goal here is simple: to distract from the burgeoning opposition movement in the country and to prevent any kind of development of an international consensus that recognises Vladimir Putin for what he is: an evil autocrat who is stifling Russia from becoming the great country it should be. Russia Today, instead of being a brave truth-telling organisation, merely parrots the bizarre political philosophy of Russia’s ruling elites – petty conspiratorial nationalism, with a touch of anti-Semitism lite to wash it all down with.

Good journalism begins at home – you can measure the strength of any reporting organisation by how it covers domestic affairs in its own country. Russia Today’s employees contest that the organisation is “fair and balanced”, that it functions like the BBC – state owned but editorially independent. But a quick perusal of the organisation’s coverage of Russian politics quite quickly shows this to be a lie. Their coverage of Russia’s internal politics is pathetic, a “People’s Daily” style lap god for the regime. News on government policy is reserved for churning out press releases. I’ll give you an example. A news story on the website now is called: “Putin promotes social unity, political modernization”. All it does is simply quote from a speech Putin made, with no opposition response, no political context. Just a report on how the brilliant President is uniting the country. What journalism!

This is the irony of the newest addition to Russia Today’s scheduled programming, “The Julian Assange show”, wherein Wikileaks founder Julian Assange takes his sabre to western governments, no doubt enjoying his fat pay check from Vladimir Putin. The first episode of the show was, let’s be honest here, awful. Championed as Mr. Assange’s explosive debut, he interviewed with fawning adoration Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the far-right wing Lebanese Shia military group Hezbollah, who Mr Assange describes as simply a man who has “fought against the hegemony of the United States”. Awful stuff. Surely this brave campaigner for truth and freedom of expression is disgusted by the actions of the government that pays him? Does he really not see any contradiction there?

Russia Today is a cynical, opportunistic propaganda machine, churning out anti-Western lies and distortion to a ready and willing online audience. An audience willing to believe anything, to listen to any charlatan, as long as it confirms their prejudices. I’ve written about conspiracy theories in this magazine before, and Russia Today is rife with them. If you’re willing to believe the propaganda of a gutless and bootlicking organisation like Russia Today, you’ll believe anything.

To conclude, I issue a challenge to the employees of Russia Today, one of whom is Mr. Assange, to prove to me you are editorially independent from the Kremlin. Firstly, to Julian Assange, devote an episode of your programme to the corruption and the crimes of the Kremlin, you’ll find rich material there. Secondly, to the journalists of Russia Today, call for an end to the media blockade of Chechnya, the Russian governments refusal to allow any serious press into the region. Thirdly, call for an inquiry into the alleged war crimes of the Russian government in that region. Finally, investigate the death of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, widely believed to have been killed by the Russian secret services for her criticism of Putin. All these things, I believe, would be entirely in keeping with a level of editorial objectivity, and, if you are as independent from the Kremlin as you say you are, surely it should be no problem to do any of these things? If you do, maybe people with half a brain would begin to take you seriously.

Oliver Hotham is Not So Reviews’ deputy editor and Politics & Economics columnist

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Filed under Politics and Economics

19 responses to “Don’t be fooled – Russia Today is trash

  1. GeorgiaZevs

    Please stay away from men with big furry hats and sharp umbrellas filled with polonium pointed at you…

  2. erikvilaça

    Yeeeah, it was a pleasure knowing you good sir. I’d go underground for a bit, maybe stay with family out of town…….a LONG way out of town.

    In all seriousness, I don’t think you could be more correct in your assessment, with more emphasis on your point of how great Russia could be. The Russian people have proven time and time again that they have the strength and the will to be a great and powerful nation. It isn’t called The Bear for no reason. However, it seems practically impossible that this drive will ever come to fruition should this illusion of democracy continue

  3. All national media is thinly disguised government propaganda (except the media of my country).
    All Gods are fictitious (except the God I was brought up to believe in).
    All wars are unjust (except the wars my country fights).
    All use of coercion and violence for political aims is terrorism (except when my country uses coercion and violence for political aims).
    All music is rubbish (except the music I like).
    All education is indoctrination (except the education I received).
    And so on….

    Oliver Hotham is nearly a genius. She just has one more piece of the puzzle to figure out.

  4. You have obviously not read the article, and if you have, you have clearly understood nothing of it.

  5. truth seeker

    Abandon tv, you have just knocked it on the head. No doubt that the main article was written by a brainwashed ignorant idiot. For those of you reading this, also take 10 minutes to watch some of the Russia today videos that show hard proof and not just the ‘if you ask questions you are a terrorist’ point of view.

  6. Thanks for proving my point by resorting to personal attacks! The “anyone who disagrees with me must be brainwashed” argument really is one of my favourite of the many nuanced arguments made by conspiracy theorists. If you believe that a news station funded by an autocratic state that has committed war crimes against the people of Chechnya, murdered journalists and political opponents, and is run by ex-KGB thugs is an objective news source then I’m afraid you, my friend, are a delusional moron. Good luck having no intelligent person take any of your Youtube video with the Requiem for a Dream music-inspired views seriously.

  7. jobo

    Nice strawman fallacy Oliver.

  8. Anty Duranty

    Well written, Oliver Hotham !!!

    I wish to add the following:

    Referring to RT as
    a producer of sound
    & reputable journalism
    … is like referring to Lada as
    a manufacturer of solid
    & quality cars.

    However, to be totally fair …
    to say that one cannot find
    any veracity & substance
    at all on RT
    … would be …
    to say that one cannot find
    any taste & nutrition
    at all in roadkill.

    The day the Kremlin allows domestic broadcasters to show serious criticism of Putin & Putinstan to the oppressed citizenry of its own dictatorship, will be the day I would consider RT as a reliable source of news & information, whereas today it simply a Kremlin propaganda machine.

    Remember, RT …
    = RarelyTruthful
    = RhetoricalTedium
    = RandomTirades
    = RidiculousTakes
    = RevivingTotalitarianism
    = RejectedTalkers
    = RantingTsarists

    RT – aka Radio Moscow 2.0 – has a dubious raison d’être and an incessant need for creating nauseating spins on the “truth”, which makes it an insurmountable perpetual riddle on the media frontier.

    I am no great fan of Western corporate & mainstream media, but RT makes me vomit.

  9. Gownol

    Any of the so called news agencies, including the state controlled BBC which is legally bound to broadcast propaganda ad verbatim, yet regards itself as a bastion of righteousness, could be inserted to replace RT in this diatribe.
    They are controlled by the rich and serve their agendas.
    Divide and rule is their mantra. Division is almost always the headline.
    It’s them versus the rest of us.
    Same as it’s always been.

  10. mceadie

    If it’s all made up propaganda, then how do you explain “Collateral Murder” on Wikileaks leaked by Assange? Are you saying that those soldiers did not shoot those innocent civilians and reporters and killed the father of the two kids that tried to help the wounded man that pulled up just to help the reporter that was shot, not to mention they fired on the two children?? Do you not acknowledge “Fast & Furious” and the IRS scandal that Obama has already admitted? Do you not admit the PRISM program exists, even after it was denied by the Administration?? You my friend, have not done your research and might want to get in touch with the average American who is REALLY struggling..either that, or you might get the raw end of the stick!

  11. Banquo

    Thank you for reminding me that our (US) government is not corrupt and doesn’t express bias toward other countries. Oh, wait…. yes they do. How much news do you catch coming from US media outlets? It’s garbage. All the really damning news is never reported by them. RT may be biased but at least someone is providing a means to call us out on or BS before a mass audience.

  12. Mary Hinsley

    I laughed at this review, you see I agree in part. Putin controlled media is bound to be insidiously biased no argument here. The regime is horrific, I am sure the majority agree with that. However, if UK and US mainstream and state owned media found the balls to report truthfully, openly, honestly and seriously, question their own Govt’s spin, call out politicians who avoid answering straight questions, research their articles properly with integrity and professionalism and in the BBC’s case allow comments on all stories then RT would have no platform in which to propagandise. However, western mainstream media is at the mercy of its owners and equally toes the party line. Conspiracy theories only gain value when no one challenges the anomalies in mainstream western press reporting and Govt spin. Instead of going out to find the truth of the matter increasingly journalists report from press releases, spew spin, quote non-comments from politicians and avoid detailed analysis and investigative effort on the major stories of the day. If their hands are tied by editors or owners decisions then that makes them as oppressed as those same journalists working at RT meaning we the public then have to do our own research and hope we can read between the lines of propaganda, including yours :(

  13. Oliver Drone

    Oliver, you’ve clearly been indoctrinated quite successfully by US Propaganda. Either that, our you’re knowingly creating your own.

    In your first paragraph, you wrote “This organisation paints a grim picture of the United States – in the world of Russia Today, the USA is an oligarchical tyranny, where the establishment conspires to silence brave truth-telling crusaders.”

    Well, I’ve got news for you, Oliver. The US is tyrannical, they are borderline totalitarian, utterly corrupt to the core and hands-down the kings of propaganda. Additionally, the establishment DOES conspire to silence truth-telling crusaders, this is proven and very apparent to anyone who does legitimate research.

    While your story might be impressive to the propaganda gobbling masses, it’s far from the truth. RT is 100,000,000 times more legitimate and truthful than ANY of the anti-american, corporate funded, government censored, Jewish-owned media within the US.

    You sir, as well as this story is a completely disgraceful failure and an immensely weak attempt to further the talking points of the blatantly corrupt US Government.

  14. I’ve got news for you, friend. You’re an anti-semite! Not all that interested in your opinion :)

  15. “T is 100,000,000 times more legitimate and truthful than ANY of the anti-american, corporate funded, government censored, Jewish-owned media within the US.”

    Another one of Putins useful idiots. Presumably a teenager. I hope you feel ashamed when you grow up.

  16. you sheeple need to wake up go read albert pikes letter for planed wars and illuminati agenda cause if you have a brain you will understand that r/t ,nbc , aljazera all news are directed by the illuminati agenturs to create a world war 111 world scenaria or every one to fight and destroy each other wile the zionist watch and laugh at us all!!! wile we destroy and eliminate each other it’s a plan from albert pike 1871 letter.

  17. B B

    the description of RT News and the Russian government sounds quite similar to the relationship of MSNBC and other liberal news organizations and the Obama Administration.

  18. America is the most currupt place on the planet. If you honestly trust any American news channel you are a fucking mug. This article is a farce!

  19. nonvegetarian

    Kremlin takes Soviet-style propaganda very seriously, judging by the number of paid provocateurs in the audience. The simple FACTS are that Western journalists, however shallow they might sometimes appear, are NOT controlled by the state, nor are Western judges, parliamentarians, etc. As as result, Western governments can be heavily criticised in their national press, they suffer heavy defeats in national court, they are dismissed by national elections, etc. No amount of disgusting RT propaganda could change these fundamental facts. Good bye.

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